What Weak Hybrid Buses Imply for Rail-Shoots from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii – Jan. 28, 2005

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It is bad form to keep kicking a dead dog, meaning Jeremy Harris is out of office, but this island is going to have to deal with the repercussions of his administration’s policies for a long time to come. It would be reasonable to remember that many of the problems that the incoming Hannemann administration is facing is not of its own making. The roots of the problems come before. Just as the Lingle administration inherited a number of problems that are blamed on it now, such as an abysmal education system, from its predecessor.

In the ”’Honolulu Star-Bulletin”’ article dated Wednesday Jan. 26, 2005 called “Hybrid buses shift to different routes,” reporting that the Hannemann administration had announced route changes for the hybrid buses that the Harris administration ordered for the BRT program, the article noted, ” . . . the slick new buses have a difficult time going up hill.”


Mayor Hannemann, putting the best face upon it, is reported to have said, ” . . . it would limit it (the hybrid bus) going over to the windward side, and this is something that I’m deeply chagrined about — that they didn’t check this out before they bought these buses.”

The answer is obvious, they knew. The Harris administration never planned for those buses to operate in any manner other than the Initial Operating Segment (IOS). The hybrid buses were clearly designed to only support the IOS of the BRT system. The assumption was, if the IOS was in place, the rest of the program would have to be implemented to support it, in order for the IOS to work.

So now the buses will go as far as they can into Waipahu. They should run all the way to Kapolei and Ewa Beach. In the rush hour traffic they should be utilized as much as possible to relieve that congestion corridor. Unless, of course, they can’t even handle the grade going to the leeward side either.

Running them is such a manner would be a test to see if any portion of commuters would actually utilize a mass transit system such as rail. All research shows that the majority of rail riders come from other mass transit alternatives. The hybrid buses should be utilized to service the exact same line as much as possible. If we can’t fill the buses with commuters, what makes us think we are going to fill rail cars with them?

The real issue is the way the money is spent. Millions upon millions of dollars were spent on buses that had limited capabilities and uses. The face of Waikiki, Kuhio Avenue in particular, was changed to accommodate these buses, for a use that clearly wasn’t well thought out. And we have to ask, what are we left with? Do we want to repeat such mistakes?

The point here is not really the hybrid buses. It is about the kind of mistakes that government can make, often does make. The hybrid buses are just a classic example of these kinds of mistakes. Millions of dollars spent upon buses that are incapable of servicing anything more than a small portion of the island. So what did the Harris administration plan to buy for the Regional BRT segments? They certainly couldn’t have been the same buses. Or could they? What a colossal goof.

Thus we come to the question that faces both Gov. Lingle and Mayor Hannemann: Do you really know what you will wrought by advocating rail? Before launching into this project have you really investigated its efficacy? Do you really know what effect it will have upon our traffic congestion? Do you really know it will serve the commuters it is supposed to?

These are not just rhetorical questions. Investigate the facts. No rail project in this nation has resulted in a reduction of traffic congestion. None has ever reached projected ridership figures. None has a growing percentage of commuter ridership, rather all experience a decreasing ridership. None services more than a small — at most 7 percent, most much less — percentage of the commuting public. These are the facts.

The experience of other cities with rail, and call it what you will — light rail, fixed rail, heavy rail, commuter rail — is well documented. It doesn’t live up to its promises. It cannot. It is a 19th century technology that we are attempting to use to solve 21st century problems. How can this be more efficient? How can this be successful?

Before we launch into another million dollar — pardon me — billion dollar boondoggle, Gov. Lingle and Mayor Hannemann need to carefully examine the experiences of other cities with rail. Does it really live up to its promises? Does it truly reduce traffic congestion? Will it really handle more than a minor fraction of the commuting public? And finally, the big question: Is it really worth the bang for the buck?

These questions have already been answered in all the major cities in this nation. The answer is no. So why are we still considering rail as an option? Why are we considering throwing away billions of dollars on a project that will not perform, has never performed, in the manner that its advocates claim? How many times do we have to learn the same lessons?

This is why the recent experience with the hybrid buses is so pertinent. They weren’t what they were purported to be. So why do we think that rail will be what it is purported to be? Why do we think it will operate in any more efficient a manner than the hybrid buses did? Is it really worth the money? This is the question the current administrations have to ask themselves. Let’s hope they come up with the right answer.

”’Don Newman, senior policy analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Hawaii’s first and only free market public policy institute focused on individual freedom and liberty, can be reached at:”’ mailto:newmand001@hawaii.rr.com

”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. See the GRIH Web site at:”’ https://www.grassrootinstitute.org/

”’HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to”’ mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com



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